DIY Floating Shelf Tutorial

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I love our house, but from the moment we bought it, the focal wall in our family room proved to be a design challenge.  First of all, it's massive.  Secondly, there are steps on either side of the room, which are only about a foot from the wall.  This meant that when we tried to put furniture against the wall, it blocked the steps.  I finally decided that floating shelves were what I wanted, but not wanting to make it too easy on myself, I decided that I didn't want to see any brackets, pipes, or use a kit.  I didn't want them to be too boxy, and I didn't want to use veneer around the edges.  A solid piece of wood was what I wanted, and I wanted the illusion of it levitating on the wall.   No wonder my husband tapped out and had me start doing these projects myself.  (Yes, he did end up helping)

After researching a TON of DIY floating shelf tutorials, I finally came across this one by Brit from House Updated.  She used 2x12 framing lumber for the floating shelves in her kitchen, and they look AMAZING.  I immediately read up on how she'd done her shelves and got to work.

CHOOSING YOUR LUMBER

I went to my local lumber mill and checked out the selection of wood.  The design of these shelves is so simple,  you could make them out of just about any type of wood you wanted.  Walnut is a gorgeous option, but who can afford four large slabs of that?  Not this girl.  If you want the walnut look without the walnut price, thermal-treated poplar is an excellent option.  It's got a very similar rich brown color with amazing grain patterns, but for a fraction of the cost of walnut.  I nearly went with the thermal-treated poplar for my shelves, but instead I fell in love with the purples, greens, browns, and silvers running through the natural poplar and ended up buying four slabs of 2x12 solid poplar.  If you don't have a planer or joiner, ask the lumber mill to square up your slabs and plane them to a smooth finish for you (for an additional charge).

MATERIALS

  • 12″ lengths of 5/8″ threaded rod – at least two per shelf (If you're mounting a very long shelf, use three)
  • 2×12 lumber, cut to the desired length of your floating shelf
  • 1/4" drill bit
  • 1/2″ drill bit
  • 5/8″ drill bit
  • drill bit extender that locks onto drill bit
  • drill
  • level
  • stud finder
  • measuring tape
  • mallet
  • tap guide (optional, but recommended)
  • stain, oil, wax, or whatever you'd like to finish your shelves with

Now that you've picked out your lumber and know what tools you need, lets get to work!


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1:

have a glass of wine.

Just kidding!  I'm not going to lie, these are a beast to install.  But don't worry!  I've included helpful tips so you avoid some mistakes I made along the way. 

We're going to get through this together and your shelves will look amazing.  


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2:

Mark where the studs on your wall are located, and use them as a guideline for how you want to place your shelves.

I put blue painters tape on the wall to make sure I knew exactly where I wanted my shelves.  These aren't shelves you're going to want to move after a couple months because you aren't happy with the location.


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3:

Use a large needle or very small drill bit to find the EXACT edges of the stud, so that you are sure to drill directly through the center of each stud.  

Each stud is only 1.5" wide, so be sure to drill straight my friend!

Start out with a small pilot hole of about 1/8", then work your way up to 1/4", then finally 1/2". You need the holes to be PERFECTLY STRAIGHT so the threaded rods will go in straight.

The holes in the studs are supposed to be smaller than the threaded rod, so that when you screw the rods into the studs, they'll fit good and tight.


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4:

Skip "arm day" at the gym and use those muscles to crank the 5/8" threaded rods into the studs.

 

I found a pipe wrench was helpful for this process.  The threaded rods need to go into the studs 3".

Remember: STRAIGHT! Use a level!  

(Photo courtesy of my 4 year old)


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5:

This is where you can change it up according to your preference.

I loved the natural tone and woodgrain of my poplar, so I opted not to stain the shelves and instead applied Danish oil to make the colors pop and to seal them.  

Next, I rubbed on furniture wax using four-aught steel wool, then buffed them to a nice sheen with a terry cloth.

Feel free to stain, paint, or otherwise finish your shelves according to your taste.


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6:

I used a tap guide to help me drill perfectly straight holes into my shelves, which corresponded with the rods on the wall.  
 

Again, start with a small pilot hole, then work your way up to a 5/8" drill bit. Each finished hole will need to be a total of 9" deep, which puts a huge strain on your drill and the bit.  

TIPS: Every couple of inches, back the drill bit out and clean sawdust out of the hole.
If using an extender for your bit, make sure it locks onto the bit so it can't come out in the hole.


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7:

Line up the holes with the rods, and mount those beautiful shelves to the wall!
 

If your shelves aren't sliding on easily, waller out the hole on the shelf a little bit more. (Is "waller" even a proper word? Or just Southern slang?)

The shelves may end up needing a bit of encouragement from the business end of a mallet. Mine sure did.

Now that you're all finished, go enjoy your new floating shelf display!

 Ta daaaaaa!!

Ta daaaaaa!!